“Safer” chemicals in plastics may be hazardous to kids


Two chemicals used to strengthen common household items like plastic wrap and processed food containers have been linked to high blood pressure and diabetes in children, according to a new series of studies.

Ironically, the two compounds, di-isononyl phthalate (DINP) and di-isodecyl phthalate (DIDP) — both in a class of chemicals known as phthalates — were introduced about a decade ago as “safer” replacements for another chemical, di-2-ethylhexylphlatate, or DEHP, which previous research proved had similar adverse effects.

“They’re coating these plastics and what happens is, especially when you put it in a microwave, it heats it and it goes into some of the food and you eat the food and it goes into the blood stream,” Dr. David Agus said Thursday on “CBS This Morning.”

Researchers from NYU Langone Medical Center analyzed blood and urine samples of children and adolescents who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The results showed what they call a “significant association” between DINP and DIDP concentrations and high blood pressure. They also found an association between the presence of the chemicals and increased insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes.

While the American Chemistry Council defended use of the phthalates, Agus said there’s an oversight issue among the federal agencies that regulate the manufacturing of these products, including the Food and Drug Administration.

“There’s this notion that they only react when there’s a problem,” he said. “It’s innocent until proven guilty and that’s an issue.”

Lead study author Dr. Leonardo Trasande also called for more testing to be done before chemicals are put into products.

“Our study adds further concern for the need to test chemicals for toxicity prior to their broad and widespread use, which is not required under current federal law (the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act),” he said in a statement.

Experts say there are steps consumers can take to limit exposure to phthalates and ensure the health of their families.

If food comes in a plastic takeout container, “take it and put it into a glass container at home,” Agus said. “Don’t put it in the microwave or into the dishwasher, which can make these chemicals leach out.”

Trasande also recommends using other alternatives like wax paper and aluminum wrap and checking the bottom of plastic containers for the numbers 3, 6 or 7 inside the recycle symbol. This indicates chemicals such as phthalates were used in manufacturing the product.


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